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Proof—Fat Phobia Is a Cultural Phenomenon

No matter how much I insist that fat phobia is nothing more than a cultural phenomenon, disregulated eaters are unwilling to believe this fact. Well, here’s a great illustration of the truth from an article entitled “Much too fat: the doctor says it’s time to slim down.” (The Economist, 6/14/14, page 44).

The article comes out of Johannesburg, South Africa and describes how that country’s people are now considered the fattest in Africa. It reports that high weight “is evidence, to many South Africans, of the good life: fast food, a fast car, an urban lifestyle. Moreover, a chubby woman traditionally betokened health and beauty, whereas thinness smacked of disease. Among men, a big belly is often thought to spell maturity, wealth, and success. South Africa’s latest government is a portly crew, with many a ministerial suit bursting at the seams.”

The article goes on to observe that “Most South Africans seem comfortable with their waistlines. A health-and-nutrition survey published by the country’s Human Sciences Research Council found that two-thirds of South African men and women reckoned that they ate and drank healthily, with no need to change their way of life. Indeed, 88% of 25,500 South Africans interviewed indicated that the body image they deemed ideal was, in fact, fat.”

Fact is, if those of you who consider yourselves “overweight” hopped on a plane and landed in Johannesburg tomorrow, you would not face fat phobia or body image problems. They truly would disappear overnight because your new context would value your pounds rather than have contempt for them. Think about that. Change the context, change the perception. I hope this example dispels the myth that there is something inherently ugly or awful about fat. Even if there is a correlation of more pounds leading to poor health and decreased longevity, there is no valid universal correlation between high weight and non-beauty or non-acceptance.

What are you thinking now? Is your reaction that you still want to believe that fat is something bad or did your mind open just a wee bit so that you can now see how context shapes perception and attitudes? Do you recognize that your large body is not inherently bad, wrong or defective? If not, reread the article excerpts above—and keep reading them again and again until the truth seeps into your brain. If you change how you think about fat, you will change how you feel about your body.